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Conversations with Stalin 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156225915
ISBN-10: 0156225913
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Milovan Djilas was born in 1911 in Kolasin, Montenegro. In 1929, he enrolled in the University of Belgrade, where he began his involvement in political activity, becoming a member of the Communist Party in 1932. After serving a three-year prison sentence for his revolutionary activities, he assumed a leading role in the Party organization in Serbia and eventually entered the innermost circles of the Politburo and Central Committee under Marshal Tito.
Over the years, Djilas became one of the leading ideologists and theoreticians of the Yugoslav Communist Party, taking an active and prominent role in the government. But after the confrontation that erupted between his country and the Soviet Union in 1948, he began to criticize the Party bureaucracy and to develop his ideas on the democratization of Yugoslav society. His open commitment to reform led to his expulsion from the Central Committee in 1954; two months later he submitted his resignation from Party membership.
Djilas spent the next twelve years in and out of prison. Unable to publish any of his writing in Yugoslavia until 1989 (the majority of his works were published abroad), he still exerted great influence in the political arena of his country until his death in Belgrade in 1995.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Brace; 1 edition (September 25, 1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156225913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156225915
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Milovan Djilas was one of four senior members of Tito's government until his expulsion from the Yugoslav Communist party in 1954 and eventual imprisonment on political charges. He wrote "Conversations With Stalin" in 1961, between arrests. The book is a diary of Djilas' three voyages to Moscow in 1943, 44, and 48. Djilas, his memories no doubt leavened by hindsight, titles the three meetings "Raptures", "Doubts", and "Disappointments", and as these names indicate, the book chronicles his growing disillusionment with Soviet-led socialism.
Djilas was an educated man, a sophisticated thinker and a writer. So that when we read passages in the "Raptures" section such as, "My entire being quivered from the joyous anticipation of an imminent encounter with the Soviet Union", it seems clear that he was not the naïf that he makes himself out to be. Rather, given his circumstances at the time that he was writing, he was heightening the sense of his early fascination with all things Soviet so that his later disenchantment is all the more palpable.
The book fascinates with its detail. Djilas travels to Moscow as a foreign dignitary to discuss Yugoslav-Soviet policies. He must cool his heels for days before he is finally summoned to meet Stalin, and then the meetings are typically all night dinners with copious drinking and byzantine political subtext to the conversation. Stalin dominates the discussion so thoroughly that when he insists that the Netherlands was not a member of the Benelux union, nobody dares correct him. Djilas recognizes traits of greatness in Stalin, his ruthlessness and far-sightedness.
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Format: Paperback
Although I read this as a requirement for one of my classes this semester (East Europe Since 1918), I found it genuinely interesting, enough that I began and finished it in the same day. Djilas was one of the top communists of Yugoslavia, and was part of the first communist foreign missions to the Soviet Union. His book treads from the opening euphoria of the promise of socialism and its new expression, including the near-worship of its manifest leader, Stalin. Then doubts begin to creep in as he is horrified by the actions of the Red Army in his homeland and the relationship that the Soviets--communist comrades--wish to compel upon the Yugoslavs. Quickly this moves to deep disappointment as he realizes that for all their propaganda, the Soviets are truly just a different embodiment of Imperialistic Russia and that the more things have changed, the more they have actually remained the same. His personal insights into the character of the Soviet leaders lend this book a feeling of pathos that goes far beyond its historicity. Here, Stalin is seen as the man that he was, and his monstrosity is only magnified under that understanding.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What happens when a young idealist has to deal with the Soviet system in his relations as a foreign representative. Djilas was a Yugoslav guerrilla who was chosen as a representative to the Soviet Union. In this series of meetings over a period of six years, his idealism is washed away and he becomes more pragmatic on the Communist system. Not only does he see Stalin for what he is, but he becomes cynical of the whole system.

This is an interesting and quick read. One understands why Yugoslavia broke away from the Soviet orbit. It also shows Yugoslavia wanting to make Albania a part of its country. We now know what that would have caused. This shows an interesting perspective on the different perspectives each East European Communist government had. This book is slighty dated.
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Format: Hardcover
The Foreword says that human memory rids itself of the superfluous and retains only the important, as based on later events. It adjusts past reality to fit present needs and future hopes. MD says human relationships are more important than dry facts. He used his personal experiences to describe Stalin's enigmatic personality. How many others knew Stalin as an ally, became an enemy, and lived to write about it?
Wartime events led to misunderstandings with Moscow; they didn't realize that the resistance to the German and Italian invasion and occupation went on together with a domestic revolution. The latter caused friction with Great Britain (p.8). Moscow did not comprehend the fact that the Yugoslav Partisans grew into a regular army; Russian partisans were an auxiliary to their army. Tito's policy was to first look after their army and people, as in arranging an exchange of prisoners (p.10). The next was to form a new provisional government. While acting in their own interests, they followed the lead of Moscow (p.11). Djilas says their idolatry of Stalin resulted in an irrational acceptance of "unpleasant facts" (p.12). Djilas noted that Stalin's style was colorless, meager, and a jumble of vulgar journalism and the Bible (an ex-seminarian). Perhaps their hero worship was due to their need for a hero in their struggle against foreign and domestic enemies? Stalin's prediction of war's end in 1942 may have been a threat of a separate peace if no Second Front occurred.
In 1944 a delegation was sent to Moscow (p.13). It had a balanced ticket: General Terzich, Party leader Djilas, a financial expert, atomic physicist Savich, a sculptor.Djilas had never been to Russia and was not tainted with any "factional or deviationist past". They hoped to be recognized as the provisional legal government.
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